This speech reviews some of the recent work of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) pertinent to technology assessment.
Among some of the old problems faced by NIJ are that of convincing police officers to wear their body armor, the efforts of armormakers to lower NIJ armor standards, and manufacturers' failure to deliver the quality of body armor promised. The current NIJ standard for body armor has been upheld by the Department of Justice, but the standard is only effective if the manufacturers deliver to police agencies body armor that actually meets the standard. Police purchasers must insist that manufacturers state in writing that every piece of body armor delivered meets or exceeds the NIJ standard. This makes the company liable should the body armor fail to perform as promised. Departments should also ask for extra samples of armor from each lot delivered so testing can be performed on a sample from each lot. NIJ is involved in a multidepartmental study of ways to detect nonmagnetic firearms, since the detectors now used by the Federal Aviation Administration only detect firearms made with magnetic materials. Congress has also asked NIJ to examine the dynamics of a police tactical situation when there is a question about whether the subject's firearm is a real gun or a toy. Research on nonlethal weapons is advancing, as the selection of the chemical agent needed for such a weapon is imminent, to be followed by large-animal tests of its effectiveness.